Published on December 15, 2021

Meet a Youth Climate Champion: Natalia Jacobs

Our work is that much richer when we approach from a place of love rather than fear. It also makes doing this kind of work more sustainable if it's connected to joy.  ~ Natalia Jacobs

Natalia Jacobs is a youth climate champion in Western Massachusetts

Natalia Jacobs is a student at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School (PVPA) and in her first year of serving on the leadership team for the Western Mass Youth Climate Summit. The team makes all planning decisions for the Summit with assistance from adult Youth Climate mentors Brittany Gutermuth (Mass Audubon's Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary) and Colleen Kelley (Hitchcock Center for the Environment).

Recently Natalia talked about her experiences with Arcadia's Carolyn Cushing, who condensed Natalia's wisdom and insights into the interview below.

What do you wish adults asked you about climate change?

I'd like adults to ask "How can I help?" There can be a disconnect about what support we want and what adults think we need. We do need practical support to help us organize our actions. Adults can help us with creating structures to get the work done. I am still a student and still learning about the world. To have multiple generations working together is really powerful because you get such a diverse range of knowledge, talents, and experiences.

Mental health is also so important to pay attention to in the climate movement. Adults could just ask us how we are doing. I think it's important we are there to support one another. We are all in various stages in our lives, and thus have different responsibilities. If we are able to create a space where we can communicate with one another, it not only strengthens our work, but our relationships.

What brought you to climate activism?

I've been going to Hitchcock Center since preschool and I grew up spending lots of time outdoors here in the Valley where we are so lucky to be surrounded by local farms. The community around me definitely taught me about loving and caring for the land.

What was a highlight, or something you were especially proud of, from this year’s Western Mass Youth Climate Summit?

I was proud to see the relationships that formed at the October event to kick off a year of teams creating and carrying out their plans for climate action at their schools. Over 60 students from six different schools participated and I loved to see people connecting to each other. The creative approaches we explored because our theme was "Creative Climate Action" and it gave us lots of hope. Music and the arts have a big part to play in getting people involved in climate work. Also, it was really special to be able to be together after the pandemic kept us apart last year. 

What change are you looking forward to implementing at your school to address the climate crisis?

We are trying to focus on paper consumption at PVPA, but it can be difficult to get changes made in schools when it costs more to do the right thing. Because of that we are advocating for legislation to bring dollars to schools to make changes. We are getting our friends to lobby with us. We are writing letters to legislators. And we had a phone bank at school. 

As we do our actions, we are always looking at how to make things fun and use our performing talents. Our work is that much richer when we approach from a place of love rather than fear. It also makes doing this kind of work more sustainable if it’s connected to joy. 

What is your vision for Western Mass for 10 years from now after youth climate activists have succeeded in their work?

Farming and frontline communities, as well as schools, will get the resources they need.  I see farms as so important because soil has huge potential to capture carbon in the ground and begin reversing climate change. Carbon rich soil is healthy soil, leading to better water retention and richer harvests. 

I would love to see the local community thrive with people having access to resources and also nature. We will live in an era where nature isn't a matter of class or wealth but something everyone gets to experience.

Thank you, Natalia, for all the work you have already done and the work you are going to do to support the school-based teams to carry out their climate action plans. We look forward to the report you'll give at the Spring Solutions Showcase.